Boats are anchored near a logo of Indian Premier League's (IPL) Mumbai Indians team displayed ahead of the Tata IPL 2022 season, in the Arabian Sea off coast in Mumbai on March 25, 2022. (AFP)
More teams, new combinations, minor tweak in rules which are mostly sensible and the biggest contracts in the game that will make instant millionaires of many a journeyman cricketer are the highlights as Season 15 of the Indian Premier League gets its bat versus ball encounters going from today. This thrilling ritual of tribal loyalties will keep a nation in thrall for the next 60 days when other mediums of entertainment will take a back seat with evenings reserved for T20 thrills.
Such has been the pull of a 14-year ride from 2008 that some teams are nestling in a billion-dollar valuation club while the IPL is itself the biggest sporting brand of them all globally. With TV and digital rights to be sold, bundled or separately, the league is looking at the stupendous figure of around Rs 7,000 crores per year from its 16th season. No wonder then that one of the new entrants, Lucknow Super Giants, was willing to pay as much as Rs 709 crores a season as franchise fee to BCCI.
All the success is not in money terms alone as IPL offers the biggest stage for young national talent to break through in the white ball game as most young recruits will be from the local talent pool. There are reputations to be made among the captains, too, with many new ones, including Ravindra Jadeja of the defending champion CSK who takes over from his most successful mentor M.S. Dhoni, aiming to hit a high even as team combinations were given a thorough reshuffle in the mega auction for 10 teams.
Returning full time to India after being forced to beat a retreat midway in the face of the Covid pandemic last year, IPL-15 will be notable because the wishes of Indian fans to be on-site can be fulfilled, to begin with to 25 per cent capacity of large stadiums in the west where the IPL is restricted to venues in Mumbai and Pune. Fans will lend the colour and atmosphere the competition may have lacked in its sterile, bio-bubble environment. Cricket has marketed itself well as glitzy entertainment through the IPL but it must not forget the fans who contribute to its success story.